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Introduction to Sub-Branches of Civil Engineering Fields through a Creative Freshmen Civil Engineering Design Course

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Civil Engineering Division Poster Session

Tagged Division

Civil Engineering

Tagged Topic


Page Count


Page Numbers

26.1035.1 - 26.1035.12



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Paper Authors


John E. Shamma

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John E. Shamma is the Facility Planning Team Manager for the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California overseeing Metropolitan’s infrastructure reliability and vulnerability investigations. He was the Project Engineer for the Inland Feeder Water Conveyance System’s Arrowhead Tunnels project from 1993 – 2005. He was responsible for the design and construction of two 12-foot diameter tunnel segments totaling approximately 11 miles in the San Bernardino Mountains. Prior to his work on the Inland Feeder Project, he served as design manager for a multitude of projects within Metropolitan’s engineering group. A registered professional engineer in California, he earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in civil engineering from the California State University, Los Angeles. He also earned a master’s of Science in Environmental Engineering from the University of Southern California. Since 1999, he has served as an adjunct professor of civil engineering at California State University - Los Angeles.

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Rupa Purasinghe California State University, Los Angeles

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Dr. Purasinghe is a Professor of Civil Engineering at California State University at Los Angeles and coordinates Freshman Civil Engineering Design course. The Freshman Design course is the
foundation for the successful Capstaone design course at Cal State LA.

Please note that this paper has several co-authors as well.

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INTRODUCING FRESHMAN STUDENTS TO THE VARIETY OF CIVIL ENGINEERING SPECIALTIES WHILE ENGAGING THEIR CREATIVITY AND INTEREST THROUGH A FRESHMAN CIVIL ENGINEERING DESIGN COURSE Freshman students entering the civil engineering program are usually unaware of the numerous sub-specialties within the field of civil engineering. They are most often familiar only with the structural engineering aspect of civil engineering and do not realize that structural engineering is merely one of the multitude of civil engineering disciplines. Students frequently have little appreciation for how often interdisciplinary cooperation is required in typical civil engineering projects - mistakenly believing that structural engineers have little interaction with geotechnical engineers and so on. The freshman design class at our urban campus is used to engage students in a real world civil engineering design project by using simplified design approaches. The goal is to engage student interest in the engineering process at an early stage of their academic career, while familiarizing them with a variety of civil engineering sub-specialties and many of their basic principles. The class also aims to clarify to students the need for frequent cooperation between sub-specialties. This early exposure to the variety of sub-specialties and many of the basic fundamentals of the engineering process prepares the students to make informed decisions when selecting specialized courses as they progress through their civil engineering education. In addition to exposing students to the theories, tools, and techniques of engineeringdesign the class projects are also designed to promote creative problem-solving. The classutilizes a team approach to solve a realistic, albeit simplified, engineering problem in order to stressthe importance of collaboration. Over the course of the past few years, the students of the freshman design class at our urbancampus have participated in a number of surveys to help gauge their knowledge, perspective, andunderstanding of the field of Civil Engineering both prior to the commencement of the class and atthe end of the class. Also industrial representatives critiqued their final project presentations as anassessment endeavor. The final paper will present details of the course, assessment data, andanalysis. In particular, the paper will document how basic skills at a freshman level were used toengage students in a real world design project with simplified design approaches. This exposes thestudents to a multitude of civil engineering disciplines while also introducing them to many of thecomponents of the design process that will be useful throughout their engineering education andultimately careers.

Shamma, J. E., & Purasinghe, R. (2015, June), Introduction to Sub-Branches of Civil Engineering Fields through a Creative Freshmen Civil Engineering Design Course Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24372

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